My latest tweet in less than 140 key strokes: “Practice makes perfect. Give up this goal. What makes perfect is an attitude about being satisfied with the outcome. Pianists please note.”
It’s too stressful to expect a perfect performance. I remind people who study with me that if they really need to know how well they did in their lesson or performance, to count up every note in their piece. Then subtract the number of wrong notes they played. Based on those percentages, it’s probably fair to say that you still got a 99%! It’s all about your own individual perception and most tend to focus on a few of those sour notes.
I don’t mean to say that one shouldn’t strive to do their best, especially when practicing. But, when it comes to being in a perfect situation, so many things can or could go wrong. Just read an earlier blog post below!
All seven of us in my family played the piano. It was the one thing that we all did. It brought us together, no matter where we happened to be living, every summer for the piano camp that Mom and Dad founded. The piano became the family nucleus. So much so, that on the first day of kindergarten, my brother, the youngest of five, came home crying. We all asked him what was going on (thinking he was probably suffering from a little separation anxiety) when instead, he sobbed: “Joey! Joey! Joey, doesn’t have, doesn’t have a…a…a…pi-a-no!” He just assumed that owning one and playing it was as normal as brushing your teeth every day.
I’m proud to say that the next generation, my two boys, are also playing the piano despite being in their teens as this is precisely the time when most young pianists give up (only to regret it many years later). My eldest finds the piano relaxing! I keep reminding him to remember this for when he goes off to college and exams and homework overwhelm him. This is one form of natural medication that is healthy! My youngest finds learning new repertoire on the piano incredibly challenging but he can make the piano sing so beautifully. Life, homework and just about everything comes easily to him. It’s why, as a parent, I think it’s important to keep him on the piano so that he recognizes that some struggles are also healthy to have.
In a few days I’ll blog a post on performance anxiety and later on about How to Practice efficiently and effectively. This post, however, is all about being open to an attitude that gives you all the comfort and joy to love every moment of what you’re doing. Sometimes, it takes reflecting back to our innocent days of youth to recognize that kind of freedom from conditioning. I’d love to see individuals experience the kind of excitement you can witness in this short video of my first born, playing in a concert with an audience of over 125, at the age of 26 months. Please note the excitement in his body language, the sharing of his inner exhilaration as well, the change in his physical demeanor (he sways) when the music switches to a slower section [an aside: he mouths to the audience “quiet part”] and the to-die-for moment when the page gets turned, only to return, once again, to the agitated swirlings of the beginning of the piece as it is aptly called “Spanish Tornado.” (by Noona)
That raw ability to offer oneself to the audience without any fear, without holding back and with complete commitment and focused concentration is what creates that perfect outcome for the audience, and, therefore, the player as well. This kind of practice does make perfect.